For the last several years in my family we’ve been holding a combination Mother’s Day/Father’s Day celebration straight between the two holidays.

Scheduling-wise, it’s much easier to assemble my wife’s family and mine when we don’t have to worry about conflicting with the actual event. We gather at my parents’ pole barn, set up tables and lay out a long spread, buffet-style.

Logistics are a challenge when you’re dealing with food for more than 20. Big pans, big plates and big roasts are quicker, easier ways to feed a crowd.

A trip to Eastern Market turned up a New York Strip roast. The full roasts weighed about 16 pounds; that’s way too much for 15 or so meat-eating guests on hand. I opted for a half-sized roast that weighed in at nearly 8 pounds. On sale for just under $6 a pound, it was about the same price for the tougher, chewier, top round I was considering and a world away in price from the tenderloin I was (briefly) considering.

A rub of salt, pepper, garlic and paprika and some sitting time was all it needed before I popped it in the smoker. Two and a half hours later, it measured rare at 123 degrees and was ready for transport to Milford for the finishing touches of “reverse searing” (see below).

I planned on a vegan lasagna to satisfy the friends and relatives that eschew animals that walk on four feet when I was reminded that some guests also avoided gluten. Gluten-free pasta has come a long way in the last few years. The pastas, usually made from a combination of corn, rice and quinoa, are available in just about any supermarket in a wide variety of shapes. They’re practically indistinguishable, taste-wise, from the standard dried pastas. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any lasagna noodles that fit that bill. No big loss. I opted for penne and it turned out fine.

I’m not above “cheating” when it comes to feeding a platoon. There are foods that I feel just aren’t worth the effort since professional establishments can do them quicker, as good and in some cases, cheaper, than I can make at home

Egg rolls are an example. I’d rather not spend a half-day chopping, stuffing and frying won tons when I can get a perfectly acceptable egg roll for around $1.50 at any of a half-dozen places near my house. Lobster bisque is another dish I won’t make again. Hours of effort led to a disaster of a mess, a horror show of shells and bits of meat in the kitchen and a soup that was ... kinda good.

So I had no qualms in opting for a large Greek salad bought at a Livonia coney island. Feta, beets, kalamata olives, onions and delicious dressing. Even with 20 people, the catering-sized “medium” was plenty.

If you want to try another track, fire up the grill for Dad and serve up this bold-flavored, yet healthy burger recipe that’s inspired by the classic combo of sausage and peppers. If you don’t have a grill basket, fold a 24-inch piece of heavy-duty foil in half and crimp up the edges to create a lip; this will prevent the vegetables from sliding through the grill rack.

Lamb chops are perfect for grilling since the cut of meat is best prepared when seared on high heat. In this recipe, the lamb is marinated overnight in balsamic vinegar to give it that beautiful black crust once cooked, plus wonderful caramelized flavor. This recipe also works well for other meats. And, finally, make sure to heat up the grill (or the pan) until it’s sizzling hot. That’s the key to perfectly seared meat.

Finally, as a change-up from burgers, steaks and hot dogs, pork tenderloins offer a lot: a flexible canvas (the mild flavor takes well to marinades, glazes and sauces), ease, speed and tenderness.

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The Associated Press contributed

Smoker-cooked New York Strip Roast

1/2 New York Strip Roast (about 8 pounds)

3 tablespoons kosher salt

2 tablespoons paprika

1 tablespoon coarse cracked pepper

1 tablespoon garlic powder

Olive oil

Set up the smoker and preheat to 225 to 250 degrees. Add the wood to the heating source and wait for the smoke to start. When the beef is close to the desired temperature (120-125 for rare; 130-135 for medium-rare), transfer it to wire rack over a baking sheet or another deep pan. Loosely tent with aluminum foil and let rest for at least 15 minutes.

While the beef rests, preheat a gas grill or a large cast-iron skillet on a burner at high to prepare for the reverse sear. (Most recipes call for searing meat before cooked. This is searing the meat after it is finished.) When the grill or the skillet is extremely hot, sear the whole roasts on all sides (about 1-2 minutes per side). Remove to a cutting board and let sit an additional minute or two before carving. Serves 16.

Per serving: 370 calories; 20 g fat (8 g saturated fat; 49 percent calories from fat); 1 g carbohydrate; 0 g sugar; 101 mg cholesterol; 761 mg sodium; 42 g protein; 0.4 g fiber.

Eggplant Gluten-Free Vegan Penne

Adapted from Jilly Santopietro, Chowhound

What’s lasagna without ricotta, mozzarella, and Parmesan? To an Italian, it’s a travesty. But to a vegan or those with food allergies, it’s a delicious and healthy pasta dish that is bound to also please the meat- and dairy-lovers among us.

For the eggplant

3/4 pounds eggplant (about 3 small)

2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more as needed

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves

1/2 teaspoon red wine vinegar

Pinch red pepper flakes

For the sauce

2 (28-ounce) cans whole peeled tomatoes, preferably San Marzano

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped

2 medium garlic cloves, minced

1 tablespoon tomato paste

2 bay leaves

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, plus more as needed

Kosher salt

For the noodles

Kosher salt

16 ounces dried gluten-free penne

For the filling

2 pounds soft tofu, drained

1/3 cup finely chopped Italian parsley leaves

3 tablespoons nutritional yeast (optional)

2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest (from about 2 medium lemons)

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, plus more as needed (from about 1/2 lemon)

2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more as needed

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more as needed

To assemble

1 cup loosely packed basil leaves (from about 1 bunch), cut into 1/4-inch-thick ribbons

For the eggplant

Heat the oven to 350 degrees and arrange a rack in the middle.

Cut the eggplants lengthwise into 1/8-inch-thick slices. Place in a single layer on a flat surface or 2 baking sheets, overlapping slightly as needed, and sprinkle evenly with 1 teaspoon of the salt. Flip the eggplant and sprinkle evenly with the remaining 1 teaspoon salt; let sit until water beads form on the surface, at least 30 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare the sauce.

For the sauce

Using a food processor fitted with a blade attachment or a stick blender, pulse the tomatoes and their juices, in batches as needed, until coarsely chopped (about 10 pulses). Heat the oil in a large saucepan with a tightfitting lid over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds more.

Push the onions and garlic to one side of the pan and add the tomato paste to the empty side of the pan. Cook the paste slightly to remove the raw flavor, stirring occasionally, about 1 to 2 minutes. Stir the onions and garlic into the paste to incorporate. Add the chopped tomatoes, bay leaf, red pepper flakes, and a few pinches of salt. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 45 minutes to meld the flavors.

Season with additional salt and red pepper flakes as needed, set aside.

To finish the eggplant

Using paper towels, pat the eggplant slices dry on both sides. In a large nonstick frying pan, heat 1 1/2 teaspoons of the oil over medium-high heat. Add just enough eggplant to sit in a single layer in the pan and sear on both sides, about 3 minutes total. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed. Transfer to a plate and repeat, in batches, with another 1 1/2 tablespoons of the oil and the remaining uncooked eggplant.

While the eggplant cooks, place the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, parsley, vinegar, red pepper flakes, and a pinch of salt in a large bowl and stir to combine. Rough chop the egglpant into pieces and transfer the seared eggplant to the oil-vinegar mixture and toss. Taste and season with additional salt as needed.

For the noodles

Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the noodles and cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente, about 7 minutes. Drain.

For the filling

Place the tofu, parsley, nutritional yeast (if using), lemon zest, lemon juice, and measured salt and pepper in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a blade attachment and process until smooth, about 30 seconds. Taste and season with more lemon juice, salt, and pepper as needed, set aside.

To assemble the penne

Spread a thin layer of tomato sauce in the bottom of a 13-by-9-inch baking dish or in a large cast-iron skillet. Place a single layer of noodles on top of the sauce, about 3 regular-sized noodles. Top the noodles with a quarter of the tofu filling (about 1 cup) and spread evenly. Lay a quarter of the eggplant slices over the filling. Spread about 1 cup of sauce over the eggplant and sprinkle with about 1/4 cup of the basil leaves. Make more layers of noodles, filling, eggplant, sauce, and basil, omitting the basil from the top layer.

Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Uncover and bake until bubbling, about 10 minutes more. Let cool at least 10 minutes before cutting. Mix and sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 cup basil. Serve with any remaining tomato sauce. Serves 10.

Per serving: 344 calories; 15 g fat (2 g saturated fat; 39 percent calories from fat); 37 g carbohydrates; 8 g sugar; 0 mg cholesterol; 879 mg sodium; 14 g protein; 7 g fiber.

Turkey Sausage and Peppers



Grill basket

1 medium onion, halved and thinly sliced

1 medium green bell pepper, thinly sliced

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons Italian seasoning, divided

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

10 ounces 93-percent-lean ground turkey

2 links sweet or hot turkey sausage, casings removed

1/4 cup fine, dry breadcrumbs

1 teaspoon fennel seeds

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

4 slices provolone cheese

4 small whole-wheat hamburger buns, toasted

Place a grill basket on one side of grill. Preheat to medium-high.

Toss onion, bell pepper, oil, 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning and pepper in a large bowl. Transfer to the preheated grill basket. Cook, stirring a few times, until the vegetables are soft, 12 to 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine ground turkey, sausage, breadcrumbs, fennel seeds, garlic powder and the remaining 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning in a medium bowl. Shape into four 4-inch patties. Oil the grill rack (see note), place the burgers on it and cook for 4 minutes. Turn them over, top with the grilled vegetables and cheese; continue grilling until the burgers are cooked through and the cheese is melted, 4 to 6 minutes more. Serve on buns.

Recipe notes: Oiling a grill rack before you grill foods helps ensure that the food won’t stick. Oil a folded paper towel, hold it with tongs and rub it over the rack. (Do not use cooking spray on a hot grill.) Serves 4.

Per serving: 409 calories; 18 g fat (6 g saturated fat; 40 percent calories from fat); 32 g carbohydrates; 6 g sugar; 85 mg cholesterol; 724 mg sodium; 31 g protein; 5 g fiber.

Balsamic-Marinated Lamb Chops

12 lamb rib chops, trimmed of excess fat

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

1 teaspoon ground dried rosemary

4 garlic cloves, minced

Coarse sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Olive oil

To a large resealable plastic bag, add the lamb chops, vinegar, rosemary and garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Seal the bag, place it on a plate to capture any leaks, and refrigerate overnight for best results.

When ready to cook, remove the chops from the bag, scraping off any garlic. Discard the marinade.

Brush a very hot barbecue grill or grill pan with a paper towel moistened with olive oil. Sear the lamb for 2 to 3 minutes per side, depending on desired doneness.

Alternatively, to a very hot skillet, add a few tablespoons olive oil. Sear the lamb 2 to 3 minutes per side, depending on desired doneness.

Let the lamb chops rest for at least 5 minutes covered with aluminum foil before serving. Serves 6.

Per serving: 321 calories; 14 g fat (5 g saturated fat; 39 percent calories from fat); 2 g carbohydrates; 1 g sugar; 148 mg cholesterol; 241 mg sodium; 44 g protein; 1 g fiber.

Cranberry and Goat Cheese-Stuffed Tenderloin

Adapted from “The Smoking Bacon and Hog Cookbook” by Bill Gillespie. Borrowing from a “Master of the Grill” tip, you can pound the tenderloins to 1/4-inch thick, so that you have more surface to fold over the filling.

2 pork tenderloins (1 pound each)

Salt and pepper

2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for coating the meat

1 medium shallot, chopped

1/2 cup coarsely chopped dried cranberries

1/2 cup chopped dried apricots

1 cup (about 5 ounces) goat cheese, softened

Prepare a charcoal grill for two-zone cooking by placing hot coals on one side while keeping the other clear for indirect heat.

Butterfly the tenderloins: Make an incision halfway through each tenderloin, along the entire length, so they open like a book. Be careful not to cut all the way, through. Season the inside with salt and pepper.

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a skillet; cook the shallots, cranberries and apricots until softened, about 5 minutes.

Spread half the goat cheese in the center of each tenderloin. Spoon half the filling on top of each. Close each tenderloin; tie with kitchen string at 1-inch intervals. Coat exterior with olive oil (or use cooking spray); season with salt and pepper.

Place tenderloins directly over coals; close the cover. Cook, 3 to 5 minutes. Flip the tenderloins; cook, 3 to 5 minutes. Move the tenderloins to the indirect-heat zone. Close the grill; cook until the internal temperature of the meat reaches 150 degrees, about 20 minutes. (If using a gas grill, brown both sides over direct heat as above, then move to a zone without flame beneath to finish.)

Transfer tenderloins to a board; allow to rest 10 minutes before cutting in 1/2-inch slices. Makes: 8 servings.

Per serving: 339 calories; 16 g fat (6 g saturated fat; 42 percent calories from fat); 12 g carbohydrates; 10 g sugar; 114 mg cholesterol; 289 mg sodium; 37 g protein; 1 g fiber.

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